BEVERLY — A rooming house that was once the target of a SWAT team raid and is currently home to the cast and crew of Jersey Boys is now the subject of a court case over its next role.
Neighbors have filed a lawsuit objecting to plans to convert the building with the curious history into six residential condominiums.
The building, at 68 Dane St., was a notorious rooming house that was shut down by the city in 2013. North Shore Music Theatre owner Bill Hanney bought it in 2015 to house actors and crew members while they're in town performing at his theater on Dunham Road.
Hanney now plans to convert the building into six condos. The Beverly Zoning Board of Appeals in 2017 granted a special permit to go ahead with the plan, but two neighbors appealed that decision in Essex Superior Court, where the case is scheduled to be heard on Thursday in Newburyport.
Robert Schlein, one of the neighbors who filed the suit, said he is not opposed to turning the building into condos, but six units are too many.
"If we were talking about four condo units, we'd be fine," he said.
The three-story building was built around 1800, according to city records, and for years was a rooming house known as the Greycroft Inn. The house had been the scene of various troubles over the years, capped off by a raid that led to the arrest of a resident on drug and gun charges in February 2013.
Hanney bought the building for $659,000 in 2015 with plans to fix it up and provide a place to stay for cast and crew members, instead of putting them up in a hotel.
Hanney said Tuesday that the plan ran into trouble due to requirements by the Actors' Equity Association, the union representing actors, regarding accommodations for their members. Hanney said those requirements, such as a certain number of bathrooms, make it too expensive to renovate the building for the use that he intended.
The house has 19 bedrooms but is only allowed to house up to 12 cast members there now under current conditions, so Hanney said it made more sense to turn them into condos. The building is only a few houses away from Dane Street Beach.
"We're not really condo developers, but you have to go to Plan B when Plan A is not working," he said.
The court complaint filed by Schlein, his wife, Elizabeth, and another neighbor, Mark Pietkiewicz, said a planned third-floor addition and outdoor deck will "loom" over the backyard of the Schleins, who live next door at 70 Dane St. It also said the six parking spaces required by the city will not be enough for the six units — which each have two bedrooms — forcing residents to compete for parking spaces with beachgoers.
Schlein said he grew up in the neighborhood and has lived in his house since 1986.
"We are not NIMBY (not in the my backyard) people at all," he said. "A condo would fit into the neighborhood, but six units is too much."
Hanney said the project "makes financial sense" at six units, and that there is plenty of on-street parking in the area. He said said having six "beautiful" condos is a much better alternative than a rooming house.
"We felt that was a pretty good use for the neighborhood," he said. "It would be less impact than having 19 bedrooms."
The complaint asks the court to annul the decision by the Zoning Board of Appeals and award the plaintiffs legal costs.
Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or firstname.lastname@example.org.